Male Birth God
Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
On View: Egyptian Orientation Gallery, 3rd Floor
Over time, the image of the Egyptian birth-god underwent an evolution.
During the Middle Kingdom and at the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty, the male birth-god appeared as a lion-man: a human man with a feline mane and tail. Around the middle of the dynasty, the Egyptians sought to combat an increase in infant mortality with a new amuletic form. Beginning with Amunhotep II (circa 1426–1400 B.C.E.), the birth-god’s body assumed the characteristics of a dwarf with short, thick limbs, sunken chest, and fleshy buttocks. Because dwarfs rarely survived infancy in antiquity, one who did was considered magical. By combining the attributes of these “charmed” dwarfs with the ancient lion-man, craftsmen produced a new, more powerful protector of women and children.
ca. 1426-1292 B.C.E.
middle Dynasty 18 to late Dynasty 18
Gift of Evangeline Wilbour Blashfield, Theodora Wilbour, and Victor Wilbour honoring the wishes of their mother, Charlotte Beebe Wilbour, as a memorial to their father Charles Edwin Wilbour
Green faience figure of Bes standing, as inlay (?). Lion head, knees bent with hands resting on hips. Back plain and slightly convex.
Male Birth God, ca. 1426-1292 B.C.E. Faience, 1 5/16 x 5/8 in. (3.4 x 1.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Evangeline Wilbour Blashfield, Theodora Wilbour, and Victor Wilbour honoring the wishes of their mother, Charlotte Beebe Wilbour, as a memorial to their father Charles Edwin Wilbour, 16.580.13. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 16.580.13_top_PS20.jpg)
top, 16.580.13_top_PS20.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2022
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